Chances are that this quartet (sometimes a quintet with Ari Brown stepping in) – Escape Lane – will not play on solid ground. Didn’t the explorers of yore understand waterways as entry points into what was to them the unknown? These four explorers will need no compass. To find their way, they need only to follow the flow of the rivers that makes the essence of their music. “These are like regions, foresees Denis Fournier, harmonic and rhythmic landscapes, and energies, that lie in our memory and can be summoned at any time; all of a sudden, they call a for a melody, a counterpoint, or a polyrhythm.” These landscapes are found in the coal of the memory, and the diamond of imaginary worlds. For improvised music is a matter of unfathomable singularities. Being nourished with so many experiences, collective improvisation is not “emancipation”, but ever-deeper insight. “Under the appearance of spontaneity, this music springs for a long process of maturation, where there is no hesitation to interrupt or relay one another – as in life – in order to tilt and shift foregrounds and perspectives.”
A singularity – Jeff Parker sometimes seems to hammer away at his instrument, equipped with a grammar of undulations and oscillations whose natural flow he thwarts with an extremely rich vocabulary of noise. It’s as if he uses his guitar as a magnifying glass that lets us see and hear all the germs and gems of an efflorescing sonic matter. Marquis Hill’s brewing and Joachim Florent’s branching can already be linked – both singularities. The task could have appeared difficult for the former, who comes, historically, at a moment when a new generation of out-of-the-ordinary trumpet players is in the limelight of the American stage (such as Ambrose Akinmusire, Peter Evans, Taylor Ho-Bynum, Jonathan Finlayson, Nate Wooley – and, in Chicago itself, Leon Q. Allen, Josh Berman, Benjamin Lamar Gay, Corey Wilkes, or David Young). However, when many others are thundering on their instrument, Marquis Hill is unique in the sense that he would rather work on his structure – paradoxically woody – and deepen its network of ridges and sap. Joachim Florent, on the other hand, develops on his double bass thick broken and bumpy lines, whose volume he stretches and whose tentacles he stretches – with a slenderness that all but evokes some of his respected predecessors, from Charlie Haden on. This leaves the singular Denis Fournier. On the drums he has mastered to art of fluttering on the ovals and lozenges of skins and metals, and on the dilated orbits of this drums – to the extent that it seems that he can vaporize rhythms. With him, with them, there is no doubt that there will always be a lyrical component in the midst of an enchanting improvisation; an improvisation that sings.
The idea for this formation originally came from the drummer. Not long ago, when he formed the Watershed quintet with Bernard Santacruz and the Americans Hanah Jon Taylor, Nicole Mitchell et Tomeka Reid, Fournier first considered inviting Jeff Parker, who was not available. When Watershed was in Chicago, he had to the chance to invite Ari Brown – master of the sulphurous gusts – who will the oh–so-special guest of this quartet. On the shores of this imaginary musical river, they make canoe bows, fishing floats, amulets, funeral poles, and headrests. There is no doubt that in its hold, this quartet or quintet will transport such a cargo of incredible musical objects.